Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, especially when it comes to movies, you can love or hate whatever you want, within good reason of course, and filmmakers really should be free to make whatever they want too, this day an age we have critics declaring that auteurs out to produce original pieces of cinema are better when they’re restrained and not allowed to work uninterrupted because original now means weird and inaccessible for some reason; which if you ask me is not only stupid but punishable. But in the case of movies like The Shack, a religious propaganda film following the trend preceded by movies like God’s Not Dead and last years’ brutally god-awful abomination Miracles From Heaven, the filmmakers should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for making such a condescending and insensitive piece of work that seems designed simply to make parents of murdered children feel guilty for wanting revenge because that’s not what God wants so shut up and deal with it.
The Shack is a deeply evil film that appears to think it has good intentions but ends up achieving the opposite result and effect because of how indescribably childish it is at handling its message. It tells the story of a Christian family man played by Sam Worthington; one day he and his family go on a camping trip way out in the woods, the youngest daughter is left alone for a moment during a brief incident on the lake and she is taken by a child murderer and killed – oh dear. Sam and his family are obviously distraught but he receives a mysterious letter in the post box inviting him to the shack in which his daughter’s bloody dress was found, the rest of his family go away to get the remaining daughter some professional help as she blames herself (rightly so, as she caused everyone to be distracted at the lake for a very stupid reason) and Sam decides to go to the shack on the date the note suggests.
So he gets there and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, he meets… Jesus, who takes him through the snowy wintery forest and into a sunny and magical part of the woods straight out of a summer fairy-tail, they come to an equally bright and lovely Shack occupied by Octavia Spencer, who is playing, and I swear I’m not making this up – God, yes, God. Sam then spends the weekend with God, Jesus and another woman who I guess is supposed to be the holy spirit, she sparkles and shines in the sunlight like a Twilight Vampire so there is that. This movie isn’t just bad, as I said before it is evil and wrongheaded in ways I never thought possible, let’s get all the surface problems out of the way first so we can then move on to the juicier fundamental problems.
It’s cheesy as hell, none of the dialogue sounds realistic, Worthington’s performance is seriously lacking in conviction and believability, it appears to have been made people whom I suspect may never have actually seen a movie given how unbearably sappy and happy-family the first batch of scenes are leading up to the inevitable tragedy you can see coming from space, the cinematography is boring just like the pacing and length and on the surface alone, it’s not a very good film. But when it comes to its message, its soul, its intentions and all things fundamental, it is just nasty, vile and nasty. The opening scene shows Sam’s character as a child being beaten with his mother by his father, he takes a walk when it is over and sees his neighbour, also played by Octavia Spencer, who gives him advice on how he can end the abuse… which is to just talk to God because “God is always listening”; sure, because that fixes every problem, especially domestic violence.
The whole point of Sam’s character is that he’s lost faith in God, that God had abandoned him and his daughter when they needed God the most and the movie is building up to him regaining that faith; but the way it’s done is just so terrible I’m going to have trouble explaining why that is exactly. God says she doesn’t hate any of her children, not even the bad ones, Sam says the man who killed his daughter should be punished and God says “sin is punishment enough”, right there, that’s really stupid, do the filmmakers think that people who commit horrible acts wrestle with the guilt of doing them every night? Oh you can just see the tears rolling down Charles Manson’s face can’t you? I hope I’m not being offensive by saying this but that’s a very stereotypically religious way of looking at something like this, the idea that all bad people are just lost and misguided and need to be shown the right way… unless they’re just gay then they have to burn in hell right?
Listen to me, if a person rapes and murders a child it’s not because they’re just lost and need a guiding hand to show them the way amidst a bright light from the heavens, it’s because they like it, they enjoy doing it. Imagine telling the parents of a murdered child that the murderer is suffering too and they need to forgive him, as if he’s the real victim here, how insensitive that would be but this film pretty much went ahead and said it and don’t think I made all this up because I’m just looking too deeply into it or seeing something that isn’t there because I’m a critic, it didn’t take much thought to realise this was what the film was saying, it’s clear from the moment the character spew the dialogue, my jaw hit the floor within a fraction of a second.
There’s even a scene where Sam is asked to play Judge and given the choice to damn or absolve people after seeing their crimes, he is shown his abusive father and chooses damnation for him, then he is shown a child he does not know being abused and is asked if he would damn him too, he wonders why he would that, “he’s just a boy” he says, then he is told he already has damned the boy – it’s his father and Sam is subtly chastised. Is this movie trying to say that if a bad person does terrible things to people it’s ok if that person was abused as a child because that means it’s not their fault? Not to self: never let a victim of domestic abuse anywhere near this movie because it will probably make them feel even worse, this movie handles its subjects with a fairy tail attitude, no logic, no real understanding of pain or grief, do the filmmakers live with their heads in the clouds or what?
God says she never left the murdered daughter’s side even while she was being killed, that’s naivety number 2, the filmmakers now don’t seem to know how brutal and barbaric child murder is. To say that God never left her side while she was probably being raped and screaming for her parents to rescue her before being killed is just horrible, this movie wants to push the idea of God being real and it’s doing so with the “don’t tell me, you’ll spoil my dinner” attitude, it wants to make the point that God is real and never leaves our side while also suspiciously leaving out the details of what probably happened to this girl at the end, not that I want to know but it just sounds really convenient that the details are all left out so God never leaving your side doesn’t sound so preposterous.
Then we get to the forgiveness rubbish because that was bound to happen at some point, God, now in a male form, tells Sam he has to forgive his daughter’s killer, Sam says he wants to hurt him but Go says no, he’s also my son and I want to redeem him. This is all presented in a manner that is meant to seem soulful and a great turning point for the character but with the slightest bit of thought you’ll see that Sam’s character has virtually no say in the matter and God is pretty much forcing him to forgive the killer because what God wants is all that matters, although I still fail to see how forgiving a child murderer without them being present or even knowledgeable that the forgiveness is even taking place is supposed to redeem them in any way. I repeat – they do the things they do because they enjoy it, not because they just need to be shown love, especially after they’ve just murdered a child for heaven’s sake.
This movie is disgusting, it’s unhealthy, stupid, childish, insensitive, condescending, has no idea what it’s talking about and is just plain vile, it’s like the parents of the Colorado shooter asking the jury that he please, please, please be spared the death penalty just because he’s our son, just insensitive, selfish and crass. You want proof forgiveness cures all? This is not the movie for you, it wants to prove that point, that forgiveness is the right way to go, but all it did was make me think we’re all even more doomed, I came out of this movie believing the entire human race deserves to rot in hell because its points on why forgive is so great are illogical and make no sense.
Even without the horrific subtext it would still be awful, sappy music, bad acting, bad dialogue, people behaving only how people in movies behave and don’t even get me started on the scene where Sam and Jesus walk on water. This movie is rotten to the core, for a film meant to promote God it sure felt like it was made by the devil.